SALT LAKE CITY — Those in the local media know Jazz coach Quin Snyder doesn’t like being asked about starting lineups. So they never bothered to ask him why he started Jae Crowder in the two recent home playoff games against the Rockets. When a Houston reporter asked about the change of Crowder in place of Derrick Favors, Snyder was ready with an answer.
“The same thing that made me decide to put Faves in at the end of the game,” Snyder replied. “The playoffs are a different animal. Obviously you have teams that have a certain level of continuity, but the starting lineup is something that we cherish a little too much sometimes.”
Snyder’s point was that teams need to be flexible, especially when their season is on the line as it was for Utah on Monday night at Vivint Arena. The Jazz coach did some things he hadn’t done all season and they paid off in a 107-91 victory that kept his team alive, at least for a couple more days.
The Jazz headed back to Houston on Tuesday afternoon to get ready for the Rockets in Game 5 Wednesday at 6 p.m. MDT at the Toyota Center.
What Snyder did differently in Monday night’s win was bench two of his starters for the most or all of the final quarter and go with a couple of players who were bringing extra energy, which helped — especially on defense and on the boards.
Favors played 9:59 of the final quarter, while O’Neale played the final 10:20. Joe Ingles never got off the bench in the fourth quarter and Gobert only went in for a couple of minutes.
“Guys are willing to do whatever the team needs to do to help the team win,” said Snyder. “That’s what’s required in the playoffs. Jae got the start the other night and didn’t play as well as he could have. He got it again tonight and he was ready to go, Fave came off the bench and gave us some great minutes. Joe started the game and Royce came in and finished the game. That tells you right there who we are and who we need to be.”
Favors ended up playing more minutes overall than Gobert for one of the few times all season and the big Frenchman was magnanimous in his postgame comments, saying he was “surprised” to be taken out and never return, but also understanding.
“Of course I want to be out there,” he said. “But we all know Derrick Favors can play when he’s on the floor. He had a great game, the team is winning ... that’s all that matters.”
Ingles, who has struggled throughout the playoffs as the Rockets have seemed to key on him especially, was having a rough night (3 points on 1-of-4 shooting) and didn’t start the fourth quarter and never got in the final 12 minutes.
The Jazz started a lineup in the fourth quarter that included Georges Niang and Thabo Sefolosha, along with Favors, Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio. Mitchell led the fourth-quarter surge with 13 points in less than three minutes on a 15-1 Jazz run and ended up with 19 fourth-quarter points.
O’Neale came in and played tough defense on James Harden, who only managed five points in the fourth quarter on 1-of-3 shooting. He also grabbed four rebounds and assisted on a lob to Mitchell for a spectacular throw-down dunk. Perhaps O’Neale’s most impressive number of the night was his plus-18 (Jazz were 18 points better with him on the floor), the best of any Jazz player.
Favors made all three of his field-goal tries in the fourth quarter and grabbed six of his 11 rebounds, including four offensive boards.
Who knows what lineups Snyder will utilize in Houston Wedesday night, but he knows that his players will be ready.
“It’s not just who starts and who plays, but the way we play during the game, having that selflessness and to not worry about individual stuff,” he said. “That’s why everyone enjoys team sports because that sacrifice is something that at some point all of us can respect because we know how hard it is.”
JAZZ NOTES: No team in NBA history has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series ... Also, of the 132 times a team has taken a 3-0 lead, only three times has an opponent come back to tie the series at 3-3 before finally losing ... Of the four times the Jazz have trailed 3-0 in a series, only once, in 2000 against Portland, have they won at least one game. However, they lost in Game 5 ... If the Jazz win Wednesday night, they will return home to face the Rockets Friday night in Game 6 at Vivint Arena.